After a week away with Sarah and the dogs I was keen to get back down to the patch especially as Adam had seen a Snow Bunting on Warren Shore on the Thursday.
On the way to the beach I heard a Dartford Warbler churring near Pullen Marsh and a Green Woodpecker flew up from close to me along the Beach Gorse Bushes. I later saw a second Dartford Warbler along Pullen Walk.
I walked the spit but unfortunately there was no sign of the Snow Bunting. Ian had also walked to Gull Island on the Friday without luck. It was not without reward however as the Purple Sandpiper which I found 11 days ago appeared again right in front of me as I was roughly level with the Cottages. It was feeding on its own along the muddy ledge which replaces the sloping shingle beach just beyond Teal Point.
I sat and watched it for ten minutes or more, it was a 1st winter bird with new adult scapulars and mantle feathers but with retained juvenile coverts which were neatly fringed white. It fledged earlier this year probably in Norway.
13 Black-tailed Godwits flew over the Cottages and I counted around six Skylark and five Meadow Pipits on the saltmarsh. A Mistle Thrush flying down Warren Lane was the first I’ve seen for a while.
On the sea there were 3 Great Crested Grebes, the Slavonian Grebes haven’t returned yet. Last year I didn’t see any until the 17th December. A female Red-breasted Merganser headed west while a male rested on the sea.
An unusually large flock of 60 Stock Dove wheeled around for several minutes over Wigeon Fields, the biggest group I’ve seen. Throughout the day a White-tailed Eagle was often in view, there have been up to five seen at once here in the last week.
A very late Common Darter was basking on a fence post near Black Water.
The female Scaup was still present on Black Water associating with a male Pochard and a female Tufted Duck. This rather distant photo gives a good comparison between Scaup and Tufted Duck. The Scaup has a pale cheek patch, deeper chest, larger more rounded head, no tuft and a more extensive white blaze.
There was no sign of any Greenshank around De L’Orne, the autumn migrants have moved on and it remains to be seen if any will stay for the winter. 12 Avocet were roosting on the far side of the river opposite the Royal Southampton Yacht Club.
A drake Teal was wearing a bill saddle on Venner. I sent the photo to Graham who commented – “the Teal was ringed in south west Portugal at the Tagus River Estuary Nature Reserve. Unfortunately the Teal cannot be individually identified, because there are 2 digits in the middle of the saddle, which cannot be read in your photo. We tend to think of Teal and other migrant duck as coming here for the winter to escape harsher conditions in Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia. However, large numbers of migrant duck carry on to spend the winter in parts of south western Europe. It would be interesting to know if this Teal went to Portugal for its first winter and maybe now it is a more experienced bird it feels able to winter here. Or maybe it is just passing through Needs Ore and it will be back in Portugal in a few days’ time.”